An Elevated Pantry Must Have
In an elevated pantry - a good vinegar is a must
If you read any magazines or online guides about how to stock a pantry, oils and vinegars are always at the top of the list. A basic pantry of the average cook will include a good olive oil, a vegetable oil and a red and white vinegar. The more experienced cook may keep on hand coconut oil, sesame oil, a balsamic vinegar and perhaps apple cider vinegar. A home cook that really wants to elevate their cooking will keep on hand barrel aged vinegars that add aroma, flavor and interest to their cooking, such as a the Champagne Vinegar we feature in our February Farm to Fork in a Box.
We were delighted to discover Kimberley Wine Vinegar down the road from us in Acampo, California. Not uncoincidentally located in the largest grape growing region of California. In fact, many of the grapes that go into legendary Napa wines are grown in the Central Valley. And good vinegar begins with good wine. Kimberley Wine Vinegars not only uses great wine, they also use the French Orleans method. This is an ancient method dating back to the Middle Ages. The town of Orleans in France, at the end of a shipping route, once was the dumping ground for wine that had gone past its age and had become sour. The boats unloaded this wine and delivered it to the local vinegar producers.
In order for a producer to be able to use the name “Orleans process” they must adhere to three criteria. 1) They must begin with excellent wines based on grapes that have a delicate and subtle bouquet - Kimberley vinegars are made from California varietal wines from the Alexander family and local wineries. 2) The transformation of wine into vinegar must be natural. Oak barrels are partially filled with wine and a little bit of vinegar cultures (a mother), similar to a SCOBY when you make kombucha. The barrels have small holes to allow the air to circulate and naturally ferment, and are kept in total darkness and at a constant temperature. 3) Traditional aging requires a minimum of 12 months in the barrels. Note that inexpensive industrial made vinegars are made using stainless steel tanks in as little as 24 hours.
Artisan vinegars are truly similar to wine in that they evoke terroir in their taste. They represent the region and components they are made from. The Champagne Vinegar from Kimberley is exceptionally light with only 5.5% acidity. It’s made from the same Pinot Noir grapes used for the best California Sparkling wines. This vinegar is not pasteurized and has no preservatives that could alter the taste. It’s also organic. It is a wonderful addition to anyone’s pantry. From using it to making a simple vinaigrette to deglazing a pan of braised chicken thighs, this vinegar will elevate your toolkit with a little California terroir and add character to any dish.